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Entries in core (3)

Friday
Sep222017

foot to core sequencing

What do feet have to do with one's core?? Turns out, everything; it all starts at the feet. The most functional movement humans do is walk. If our parts are aligned and neuro-muscularly coordinated we walk and work with ease and without pain. There is a sequence to neuro-muscular firing that is essential to this coordination.  Think of a string of fire crackers each causing the next to ignite. That's efficient. If you had to keep lighting every couple fire crackers you'd get frustrated and you wouldn't get the same effects.

So here's how it works:

We must have enough inversion of the foot in order to effect external rotation of the tibia which, in turn, causes internal rotation of the femur, activates the glutes, then initiates firing of psoas, pelvic floor and respiratory diaphragm. It's a neuro-muscular firing cascade that happens from the ground to the core by virtue of our feet impacting the ground.

We also must have enough eversion of the foot, have enough ankle dorsiflexion and be able to get over our big toe in order to effect adequate propulsion. A number of compensations reveal any inadequacies--walking with feet pointed outward, rolling the feet, twisting the leg, throwing the leg to the side or picking up the foot early. Have bunions? or flat feet? They're the result of compensations.

Neuro-muscular firing initiates while we are anticipating where to place our foot, even before the step is taken. There's an unconcious planning that takes place in walking (and running), one that either serves us well or has become a pathological habit. People who have been raised shod have more foot, ankle and leg injuries than people raised barefoot because the sensory ability of the small, intrinsic nerves of the feet have been dampened. A shod foot trying to walk is like a ear trying to hear underwater--distorted and unsure.

Getting some barefoot time in each day can re-awaken those small, instrinsic nerves, improving balance and proprioception while protecting you from injury over the long term. Many runners who change from shod to barefoot, or minimalist, get injured because they try too much too soon. It takes some time for the nerves to waken and for your body to adjust to using your muscles in new ways. Take it very slow and gradually decrease your shoe's support over time.

Check out Harvard's website on "Biomechanical Differences Between Different Foot Strikes" for more, really cool information.

Wednesday
Dec262012

Sensory awareness

Since sensory awareness drives motor control, promotes sensory integration and helps to develop relationship with one's body, I've been adding sensory awareness exercises to my Core & Pelvic Floor Workout classes these past couple weeks. It is a trend I will continue.

This past week my participants and I were noticing how very minute shifts in our position--pointing a foot or leaning--can elicit profound changes in sensory perception. When one has increased awareness one enhances one's ability to control those muscles and the surrounding structures. As Janet Hulme, PT, avers, "Even muscles you are not aware of being able to control, like the bladder, are affected when you change muscles you can control." Perhaps this can be one definition of the subconscious life, connecting the unconscious and supposedly uncontrollable with the conscious and controllable. In politics the Chinese call this approach 'using the back door'. In biology it's sometimes called neuroplasticity.

Try this:

Move ever so slowly to a sitting position, paying particular attention to how your sitz bones (ischia) are moving. You should notice that as you sit, your sitz bones are spreading, moving away from each other, until the moment before sitting. As you release the tension to let yourself give your weight to the chair, the sitz bones move toward each other slightly. Do it several times in attemp to feel it.

Squat down and perform a slow, side to side swing of your buttocks. Notice the pull you feel on your opposign sitz bone. In other words, when you are swinging to your right, you should feel a slight pull on your left sitz bone. When you swing to your left, you feel that pull on your right sitz bone.

These simple exercises, and others like them, can aid in restoring normal sensation and function, when practiced over time.

Wednesday
Jul042012

Tummies & Posture

The pendulum keeps swinging back and forth between two camps. There are those who say that we should pull in our tummies to keep our abdominals strong and promote core strength and there are those who advocate for not pulling in our tummies, that we should maintain our lumbar curves. Right now we are in an era of 'let it all hang out'. Actually, the two camps are not entirely mutually exclusive, yet both are wrong.

We do want to activate our transvers abdominus throughout our day, while maintaining our lumbar curve and while allowing our tummies to move with our breath. This means pulling in our tummies slightly, about an inch, while not maintaining a rigidity to that hold. The transverse abdominus is a component of the core, which provides stabilization for functional movement and contributes to balance and proprioception. We do want to strengthen our core. But more importantly, we want to engage our core in concert with functional movement. In this way we educate our bodies in neuro-muscular coordination. A strong muscle without neuro-muscular coordination is a bully to its neighbors.